I have a few thoughts about "sharing" and other things said in the "best interest" of others and under the guise of prayer requests and just plain ol' gossip. Obviously, just my opinion.
If you must speak, and by "speak" I mean talk, text, email, publish, post, blog and generally speak by your actions towards another person in private or public...
If you must speak:
#1 Make sure you are talking to the right person.
If it's not your story or the story of the person to whom you are speaking, you're talking to the wrong person.
This is really the foundational principle. Every other decision you make will rest on this. "Am I talking to the right person?"
If you cheat or stretch this rule, you will almost always be sorry. Unless you never get caught or have no conscience.
[Let me know if you need more help on this one. I'm being serious - I'm not sure that idea is expressed very clearly. Let me know what you think.]
#2 IF you are talking to the right person, please don't bother hiding behind a prayer request unless you are ready to dedicate time everyday to pray specifically for that person...
AND you are ready to respond to anything God might direct you to do or change as a result of that prayer...
AND you are ready to follow up and continue give your time, talent and treasure to care for this person and others in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
(this could be just the beginning. and that could be a very good thing for all involved. praying for other people is good - and it's very nice to say so. just don't offer be a counterfeiter, that's all.)
#3 IF you are talking to the right person, listen much and speak little. Smile, looked concerned or whatever facial expression seems most appropriate to you at the time and nod. Repeat. Do the same tomorrow.
Offer brief, honest expressions of your sympathy and concern. (eg. "wow - that must have been hard for you." "oh, I'm so sorry." etc.) This does not imply your absolute support for everything she has said or done or everything that has happened. It may just communicate your love and concern. Learn real sympathy - to suffer with your friend.
Earn the right to be heard by respecting your friend's sadness, grief, anxiety, care, burden, anger, humiliation, whatever-it-is. Over time. If you are really listening, it's not your turn to talk yet. She'll let you know - probably a little at a time.
#4 IF you are talking to the right person, be prepared to never speak of it again. To anyone.
That's what confidentiality really means. Look it up if you don't believe me.
[Don't bother me with obvious exceptions: when a person is threatening to hurt themselves or others; other illegal activity. Really? how often is this going to happen in a regular person's lifetime?]
If you really, really want to tell someone else - go ask the right person for permission to tell their story to _____________ (insert name of person you want to tell). I think this includes your spouse.
If you want to be able to use your own judgment about whom you tell, then ask the right person for permission to tell anyone you choose. Really. And use those exact words when you ask. "Is it OK to tell anyone I want? For any reason I think is a good one?"
So I get pretty worked up about this subject. Please, please don't be offended just take anything that's useful to you and leave the rest on the floor. I have been talked about plenty and have certainly done my share of talking. I did it this week, in fact. I'm trying to do better.
For me, that just means talking to the right person. It seems harder, but it's really so much easier. And right-er. And more useful. And more Love.